Love scores 20 points as No. 3 Arizona overpowers Belmont 100-68

By JOHN MARSHALL – AP Basketball Writer

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) – Caleb Love has gone with the flow during Arizona’s first three games, even against archrival Duke.

The North Carolina transfer was much more assertive against Belmont, giving Wildcats fans a glimpse of his game-changing ability.

Love scored 20 points and started a huge first-half run, freshman Motiejus Krivas also had 20 and No. 3 Arizona overwhelmed Belmont in a 100-68 rout on Friday night.

“I was a little more aggressive coming into this game,” said Love, who shot 8 of 12 and had six assists. “The floor opened up a little bit more because our offense is really fast and it opens things up for all of us.”

The Wildcats (4-0) outscored the smaller Bruins (2-2) inside, outscoring them 52-18 in the paint and grabbing another 30 rebounds. Arizona had 15 points off 17 offensive rebounds and shot 54% from the floor for its third blowout win in four games.

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Love started the Wildcats, scoring 10 points during an 18-0 run and 15 in the first half to help Arizona build a 56-35 lead.

“I was very proud of the effort he was playing with. I felt like he was really setting a standard of effort for him that was higher than what he’s done in the past,” Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd said. “I told him if you stay true to that, your moments will come and they did tonight.”

Malik Dia led Belmont with 21 points.

Love was one of the most sought after players on the transfer portal after three seasons at North Carolina.

The springy 6-foot-4 guard took a star turn in the 2022 NCAA Tournament, scoring 30 points against UCLA in the Sweet 16 and 28 against Duke to send the Tar Heels to the national title game.

Love felt a lot less love last season as North Carolina struggled. Trying to play hero ball at times, his shot selection was questioned when the Tar Heels went from preseason No. 1 to March Madness missing.

Love came into Lloyd’s first-team system through the first three games, picking his spots when he shined.

He gave the fans at the McKale Center their first look at his hot-hitting skills in the first half against Belmont. Love hit two 3s during Arizona’s big run, setting up a difficult layup and another conversion as the Wildcats took a 32-14 lead.

“When my shot is falling and things are going into rhythm, you just have to take the right shots and make the right plays,” Love said.

Krivas took over from there, causing Belmont all kinds of problems with his length. ​​The 7-foot-2 Lithuanian got into a deep position several times and scored 10 points while getting eight rebounds in the first half.

Love hit a corner 3 and threw down a two-handed dunk on an inbounds play to give Arizona a 73-44 cushion early in the second half. He followed up with three assists, including one behind the goal and a putback to Keshad Johnson to keep the streak going.

Belmont: The Bruins kept up with Arizona early with 3-point shooting. When the Wildcats were flexing their inner muscles, Belmont didn’t stand a chance.

Arizona: The Wildcats were hurt last season by not having any players, especially when Princeton lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Love has shown he can be that player with his scoring flurry against Belmont and four free throws win over No. 9 Duke last week.

Belmont: Monmouth plays next Friday at Philadelphia.

Arizona: Hosts Texas-Arlington on Sunday.

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